I was feeling a little experimental and wanted to expand on a theory that I was pondering, that if you pre-braise the chicken, on high heat, before hand, that it does not break up as much when it is cooked, and if the ‘fond’ (those delicious caramelized bits stuck to the bottom of the pan), would add to the flavour.
I have always gone the traditional route of marinating the raw chicken in some spices and then adding to the chutney. (Chutney = oil + onion + tomato + ginger + garlic + masala/spices)
Now to complicate things a bit further, I am taking a break from sunflower oil (have not used it for the last 3 months) and have been using ghee, as well as have been experimenting with coconut oil.
So let’s see how that works out.
I tried the pre-braising method a week or so ago, so wanted to try it again just to settle the many questions that run through my mind in the small hours of the morning.
To complicate it even more, I decided to marinate the chicken in some kashmiri chilli powder & masala, AFTER, it had been browned. My thinking was to avoid the spices burning during the high heat braise, as the first thing that you can do to ruin your curry, is to burn your spices.
Anyway, to not bore you with the details, I will summarise the cook and then share my thoughts afterwards.
Added about 4 tablespoons of coconut oil to the pot, a few cloves, a cardamom pod and browned the chicken pieces on high heat, when the skin was crispy, removed the pieces and set them aside in a bowl. Then added some kashmiri chilli powder and some masala to the chicken and mixed it up to cover the chicken in spice.
After attending to some other work related stuff, came back in an hour or so and added a tablespoon of ghee into the pot same pot – fond and all – that I browned the chicken in. A good start.
I added one thinly sliced medium-large red onion and one small brown onion, no other reason besides that I only had one brown onion, ‘deglazed’ the pot with some water and then sautéed them until they were soft once the splash of water had evaporated. After which I added a tablespoon and a half of fresh ginger & garlic and let it all cook for around 5 minutes more, before adding the masala.
As it was 1.2kgs of chicken, I used 5 tablespoons masala (40g) and 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri Chilli Powder.
Mix, mix, let the spices temper as best as possible until the pot goes dry. As I am not cooking with the traditional quantity of about half to three quarters cup of sunflower oil for this quantity of chicken, making sure the masala does not burn is high priority. I just add a bit of water and mix and let it cook down again, which works very well.
Now it was time to add the tomato, being the rebel that I am, I used a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes – ok, not because I am a rebel, but because it is all that I had.
One the tomato had softened and cooked down, I added the chicken and then the potatoes. A trick to get those beautiful yellow potatoes, is to toss them in a few drops of egg yellow food colouring first.
Gave it all a mix, added some fresh green chillies and fresh dhania and gently simmered covered, under a low-medium heat in my AMC pot.
Whilst this was simmering, I knocked together a quick carrot salad with, you guessed it, grated carrot, sliced red onion, dhania, salt, pepper, some sugar and white vinegar. I sliced the onion a bit too thin which made the salad a bit mushy. I much prefer the onions with some crunch.
Anyway, after cooking for about 25 mins or so, until the potatoes and chicken was soft, and giving it a gentle stir every now and then, it was ready.
THE VERDICT: My wonderful wife said that it was one of the best chicken curries that I have cooked, and it sure was delicious. The chicken did seem a bit firmer from being pre-braised on high heat, but I am not 100% sure if it was worth all the effort. As I am writing this, though, there is this nagging voice in my head saying that the texture of the chicken was better. I guess that I am going to have to do it again, but this time marinate the chicken in some spices before hand. I may have used a bit too much onion for the size of the pot, but the thick gravy was out of this world, so who knows?
Sigh …. it is tough being obsessed with cooking the perfect curry.
I would love to hear your thoughts below.